Updated: August 15, 2013 10:06AM
CHILMARK, Mass. — President Barack Obama on Thursday canceled joint U.S.-Egypt military exercises, saying America’s traditional cooperation with Egypt “cannot continue as usual” while violence and instability deepen in the strategically important nation.
It’s unclear whether scrapping the Bright Star exercise will have any impact in stopping the clashes between Egypt’s military-backed interim government and supporters of ousted President Mohammed Morsi. And Obama gave no indication that the U.S. planned to cut off its $1.3 billion in annual military aid to Egypt.
Speaking from his vacation home on Martha’s Vineyard, Obama said the U.S. wants democracy in Egypt to succeed. But he said achieving that outcome is not the responsibility of the United States.
“America cannot determine the future of Egypt,” Obama said. “That’s a task for the Egyptian people. We don’t take sides with any particular party or political figure.”
More than 500 people have died in Egypt since Wednesday in clashes between the interim government and Morsi’s supporters. The government has declared a nationwide state of emergency and a nighttime curfew.
The Bright Star exercises are a multi-national effort designed to strengthen military-to-military relationships and improve readiness between U.S., Egyptian and other coalition forces. The air, ground and naval exercises were scheduled to start in mid-September and last about three weeks.
For decades, Bright Star has been a centerpiece of the military relationship between the U.S. and Egypt. However, the maneuvers haven’t been held since 2009 as Egypt grappled with the fallout from the revolution that ousted its longtime autocratic leader Hosni Mubarak.